The FANG virus

Thoughts

Nothing is so bad that it isn’t good for something else.

If you’re an investor in FANG stock – Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Alphabet (Google) – and potentially Microsoft as well, you will probably have one eye on your portfolio, which is doing pretty well and have recovered what was briefly lost.

The other one you will be having on how the FANG companies use the lockdown and the uproar to create new opportunities for themselves and become even more dominant.

Case in point: Facebook is still getting stronger, Amazon is cementing it’s lead in e-commerce and almost anything else with its customers being under lockdown at home. And so on and so on.

And there is reason to be optimistic (if you’re an investor, that is), because what does the FANG companies have that many others don’t at this point?:

Cash. Piles of cash.

In a situation where cash is king, those with an abundance of cash can go on the offense, when everybody else is forced on the defense.

Right now the only thing stopping FANG from using this pandemic to dominate the online space even more – infect, even – than before is regulation.

What are the odds of that happening any time soon?

I thought so.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

A special Labor Day

Thoughts

Today is Labor Day and for people in the West you can argue that there hasn’t been a more relevant time in decades to take stock at work, how we work and how we want work to be like going forward as this year.

We can start by the people who have lost their jobs in droves during the last 6-8 weeks. And then we can add a labor market that looks very bleak. Both for as long as the lockdown remains mostly in place but also afterwards as we need all those big and small gears to fall in place again and work before we can really start work again.

On top of this we can add all the gig workers who are now finding out the hard way what it means to be a ‘partner’ of a non-employer. The word ‘flexibility’ is taking on a brand new meaning every single day. And not necessarily in the best possible way.

Then throw in all those essential workers who are working super hard to make sure that things as food supplies, warehousing, logistics, supermarkets can still operate and add some sense of normality to an abnormal every day life. Some of them are really being pushed hard – in some cases too hard.

And then finally add all those who have been forced to work from home. Who are fighting an endless battle between random internet connection, unstable video platforms, people out of reach for various reasons, kids running around in the background, disruptions, lack of ability to focus – and no real end in sight as to how long this situation will last.

And then you have plenty to spend contemplating the viable future of on Labor Day.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Facts matter

Thoughts

Yesterday I got wrapped up in a Twitter-fight. I know, you should never allow yourself to be in that position, but in this case ‘the arsonist tweet’ was so profoundly…don’t know what to call it…I couldn’t help myself.

Basically, the discussion was around what or who killed Danish the Danish chain of bookstores, Arnold Busck, which has gone belly up. The argument – without any supporting data, analysis and/or argument – was that it was…wait for it…the public libraries.

Because people have access to public libraries and can borrow books for free, Arnold Busck died an unfair death.

WTF?!

Never mind that liberalisation of the Danish market for books years ago allowed supermarkets to sell books at a discount with predictable results. Never mind online book stores discounting books and providing free shipping, if you’re a paying member. Never mind the huge positive socioeconomic effects of libraries on education among other things. Never mind that fewer people actually use libraries to borrow books – because they buy them instead (!!)

The cause of death of Arnold Busck can most likely be found in the mix of cheap crime litterature (that Danes read A LOT) in super markets and a better and cheaper inventory online. And then I haven’t even mentioned A-M-A-Z-O-N…

Etcetera ad nauseam.

But let us close down the libraries so a super challenged chain of bookstores with premium book prices, limited stock of titles, expensive prime real estate, a f***** IT system with an inept implementation gone haywire and what have you can be put on life support for a few more months.

(*SIGH*)

The point here is not to show how misguided the original ‘argument’ is – although it is and it took me roughly 3 minutes of basic online research and insertion of relevant links above to make a far more nuanced analysis of the real problem.

No, the point here is to show for all what kind of problems we create for ourselves when we can’t be bothered getting our facts straight before we come out with totally unsubstantiated conclusions.

It can be ok when it only happens on Twitter (except it gets you all worked up and leads to wasted time arguing and posts like this). But when business decisions are based on the same kind of deeply flawed logic and approach – and trust me: it happens multiple times every second all over the place – we’re not making ourselves better off. We’re making ourselves worse off.

We can and should do better.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Do the Prof G Strategy Sprint

Recommendation

Last night at 1.40 AM I wrapped up my participation in the Prof G Strategy Sprint with Professor Scott Galloway, NYU Stern School of Business. The course ended – fittingly – with a session on Life Strategy by the man himself that is some of the most insightful I have heard in a while.

The sprint I participated in was the 2nd cohort by Section4, the company founded by Scott which is the home of his activities within the field of bringing higher education to more people at a fraction of the US cost. And judged from participating, I have no doubt that they are onto something:

The sprint is based on short modules each accompanied by a case study and an opportunity to reflect based on a number of questions that you can then answer and debate in the 600 people strong Slack community that comes with participating.

For me that part was one of the real wow!-moments as the discussion really had an intense level and so many contributions that it is going to take weeks to go through and properly digest it all. It is a great example of how real learning happens; sharing and discussing things with your peers, and based on this experience there is no reason to believe it can’t happen in a much more nimble and cheaper online setting that at some fancy, costly campus.

Everything we did was based around learning the T-Algorithm, a framework Prof G has developed to analyze what sets trillion dollar companies apart. The method is pretty straight forward but does require you to do some competitive analysis the good old fashioned way. But once you have done that the model – and the Excel format you get it in – really kicks in on stereoids.

I am going to use the model going further. Not only to analyze potential opportunities for new projects or ideas, we look at at inQvation but also for building out strategy and recommendations for the projects, we’re already running. Why? Because it helps dealing with a lot of the moving parts of trying to build and succeed with something, and it puts them into context, prioritizes them and basically help you keep a cool, focused head.

The course ended with a class where Scott highlighted some student projects. While mine was not among them – and that’s perfectly fine – I did thoroughly enjoy being back to school again and actually doing and handing in a project for the first time in 20 years.

Awesome, AWESOME experience that I highly recommend if you’re interested in strategy and marketing and building stuff that has real value.

Photo: Screenshot

The Norwegian Real Madrid

Thoughts

When you think about how hard the Covid-19 pandemic is hitting you, think about how you would have felt, if you worked at an airline or a company affiliated with one.

*GULP*.

People are not allowed to travel, your planes are grounded, you have high recurring costs for leasing aircraft, a valuable, sizeable staff you want to hold on to as much as you can and a cashflow resembling a one-way street in the worst possible way.

What’s not to be deeply distraught about? I know people who work at airlines, big and small, and it is really, really tough out there. And I am so happy, I am not in their shoes.

One of the hardest hit ones is the Norwegian low-cost carrier, Norwegian. They are working extremely hard to save the company from going under, and they are hoping for both a restructuring of their massive debt and an aid package from the Norwegian government.

Even though they are ‘Up S*** Creek’, I want to put forward the prediction that they will make it in some shape and form. But not because it is a healthy company. For psychological reasons:

Years ago there was a saying that the only reason the football club Real Madrid could keep existing with massive signings and massive debt was that there wasn’t a living banker who would have the guts to send this massive club, and their fanbase with them, into receivership.

Same goes for Norwegian, the airline.

The Norwegians are proud people – national attires, cowbells and all. I don’t think there is anybody in government or parliament with any appetite for reelection or his/her place in history who wants to be the one pulling the rug from under the wheels of essentially the Norwegian flag carrier. I mean, the name alone thrown into a dumpster fire?! Not going to happen.

But there may be one or two left who think about the one old naming rule for warships:

Never, ever, EVER (!!) name a warship after your country for the fully justifiable fear of what it being sunk in battle would mean for morale and publicity.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Nothing is that far-fetched

Ideation

The other day I was revisiting our list of potential ideas to explore further. It is a list we keep in our Studio team to jot down ideas and problems for potential future exploration, and – who knows – a new, exciting startup.

As I went through the list I was reminded of some of the thoughts that went through my mind, when I made the original list and how some of them at the time seemed very far-fetched. A very good example of this is this one:

Virtual vacation.

When I wrote it down in autumn 2019 it seemed pretty sci-fi. Now, nobody can travel, and tourist destinations are equipping locals with strap-on cameras to assist people in remote exploration of now in-accessible places. And it is being louded as breakthrough innovation.

This just goes to show that what may seem far-fetched today may be totally relevant and a real opportunity tomorrow. Therefore, don’t ever hold yourself back from having those borderline crazy ideas. You may in fact be on to the next big thing.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Aviate, Navigate, Communicate

Thoughts

I am an avid fan of the hit series “Homeland”. And watching Episode 10 of Season 8 yesterday, something resonated for me:

In the episode Carrie asks a helicopter flight mechanic, why the crew of the chopper that crashed with the US president aboard didn’t clearly articulate that they were going down and crashing due to a technical malfunction. And the mechanic answers referencing to the order of battle for an inflight emergency: “Aviate, Navigate, Communicate” – or in other words: Focus on the situation at hand and managing that first.

It resonated with me because I believe it goes for innovation as well; it is not about how much we talk about what we do. It is all about what we do in the moment, what we learn from it and then – only then – how we communicate about those learnings.

Truth be told it is also what makes working with innovation so much fun; that you’re in it neck deep, learning to fly as you go along and trying to always do one better through the learnings you acquire underway.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Pick up the learnings

Case, Work

A while ago we applied for the summer 2020 batch of Y Combinator with our FIXDIT project. Alas, we didn’t make the cut from the thousands of startups that applied.

While that of course is a total bummer, the whole process did allow us to revisit the whole project, look at it with fresh eyes and come up with some new perspectives and ideas, which I think has generally strenghtened the project. It also allowed us to try a few new things and approaches that will serve us very well going forward from here.

This is just to say that when you put yourself into play, even if you hit the wall, there is an opportunity to reflect and learn that will ultimately get you to the other side in a better and stronger shape.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

If I owned a newspaper…

Case

Over the years I have worked in and written extensively about news media. Sometimes I have felt the love, and sometimes that love has been of the tougher kind with people (wrongly) suggesting I must feel a burning hatred towards old media (which I BTW don’t at all). So with that said I don’t know why on Earth, I should be writing the following.

But after a ton of discussion over the past weeks, months and even years on Twitter, I thought I wanted to do a thought experiment to myself:

“Mads, what would you do, if you woke up tomorrow and owned a newspaper?”

Myself asking myself a question

Well, here goes (after a deep, deep sigh). I would:

  1. Get out of the ‘Breaking News’ clickbait business (if I was in it) NOW! and leave it to pretty much anybody else and his dog(s). There is absolutely nothing to be won in that space from both a business and end user value perspective, and it is detrimental to long term viability of the newspaper as such. In sum: It is an easy call to make, and it would be made within the first couple of hours after taking charge.
  2. Resist the temptation to try to continue the uphill struggle of wanting to be ‘something for everybody’ and go for ‘crucial for somebody’ instead. And then start working out what the heck that means in terms of the end user profile, the editorial profile and services, I could offer in the context of the readers and users, the newspaper should truly serve in the very litteral sense of the word.
  3. Reduce print to a weekend thing at the very maximum and perhaps (in time) more towards a monthly publication (if at all), make the necessary cutbacks to the cost base, and then go for offering our content via the distribution methods and in the scenarios where my readers and users are and can find time (or free some up) for actually engaging with the content and getting the value add to their daily lives.
  4. Draw inspiration from the point above to start figuring out if there were areas to branch out to. Ex. if sound/podcasting seem to be the way forward (as witnessed in inspirational ways here), I would ask: “Are there other areas, where sound/podcasting has a unique strenght, where we could make a play that makes viable sense for the business?”
  5. Use the insights to get to a position where we were the best and brightest in terms of understanding what drives perceived value of media within our chosen niche or geo. After having figured that out then use that knowledge to create an algorithm for a new digital subscription model that rewards subject matter expertise, facts and supporting the daily lives of our readers and users. I would rather be “Mr 10 Percent of Something” with a flexible crew of killer freelance contributors than “Mr 100 Percent of Nothing” with a big fixed cost editorial staff.
  6. Build out a super strong, compelling digital subscription offering. Get rid of traditionel advertising and focus only on value adding partnerships with the emphasis always being on the pay-ability of the core offering in the eyes of readers and users.
  7. Make an absolute effort – again and again – in getting the best and brightest contributors onto the platform and do whatever needed to be their new best friend. Quality pays – and can command payment. (And probably shed some potential deadwood from the editorial staff in the process).
  8. Get a better understanding of the whole value chain of the things from above that proved to generate the most value for readers and end users and then investigate if there were other places in the same value chain other than the very end, where I could actively engage to play in a bid to drive new revenues and diversify the business without blowing it up.

What would you do?

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Back in the office!

News

Today is my first day back at the office for more than a month due to the corona pandemic. I have walked my kids to school and kindergarten (and I feel confident that they will be totally fine), and I feel like cattle being let loose on the meadows after a long winter indoor.

Much is being said about remote work being the new style of play. I don’t buy it. It is not for me. Both because I need the separation between work and home, and because I have found it very hard to do the job, I do, efficiently from home.

I realize you may feel differently. And I also realize that if your job entails a lot of communication, answering emails, crossing of tasks and talking on the phone, working from home may be just what the doctor ordered for you. But if you’re trying to develop new business(es), create relationships, get people onboard with exciting new ideas, concepts and businesses, there is no substitute for being able to get out of the building.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)